SOMERSET, Ky. – Have you been wondering how you are going to keep your kids occupied this summer? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may have the answer. Lake Cumberland Visitor’s Center is opening on the weekends, which is a great learning opportunity for local residents and lake tourists.
The visitor’s center is located in the Natural Resources Manager’s Office located at 855 Boat Dock Road, and features information about local wildlife, aquatic habitats, and the inland reservoir ecosystem. Visitors can learn more about water safety, keeping the lake clean and protecting the environment against marine debris, volunteering at corps facilities, Lake Cumberland history, and information about the Wolf Creek Dam Foundation Remediation Project.
It is opening on weekends beginning May 11 through Labor Day. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays, noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Park Ranger Aurora Scott said the visitor’s center also has an interactive station where people can peruse information on a flat-screen television. Topics include Just for Kids, Cool Careers, People Who Make A Difference, Disaster Response, Water Resources, Environment, Military Support, Public Works, Who We Are, and more.
“People can click on a number of categories to learn about the corps, what the corps does in different districts. It also has a section for children to learn about water safety, with music videos with Bobber [the Water Safety Dog] and Corky,” Scott said. “There is a lot of information for people to just grab.”
There is also a water safety display to educate and encourage kids and adults to wear their life jackets and to be safe in and around the water. It also promotes boating safety and has goodies for the kids to take home with them to remind them about the importance of water safety.
“It’s very valuable because we try to make water safety fun for children. They get real excited about it,” Scott said. “We also have information for the adults. We also have Bobber and Corky here, and will be out and about with us too. We have water safety items here that make it fun – Frisbees, coloring books. It really is a good opportunity for parents to come talk to their kids about water safety.”
Scott said educating people about water safety is so important because they really do need to be safe on the water. “We hope that they’ll think twice and be sure to wear their life jacket when they’re underway or not drink when boating,” she said.
Another featured area at the visitor’s center includes a replica and information about Mill Springs Mill, which is a historical gristmill in Monticello, Ky., on the shores of Lake Cumberland. The actual mill is preserved and administered by the Nashville District’s Lake Cumberland Natural Resource manager and is open for tours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Monday from May to the end of October. The annual Cornmeal Festival is also scheduled at Mill Springs Mill, May 26, 2012 and includes food, craft booths, and music entertainment.
Mill Springs Mill first began milling in 1817. A fire destroyed it in 1824 but rebuilt in 1839. The site has 13 natural springs that run consistently year round and can turn the 40-foot overshot waterwheel that turn the millstones imported from a quarry in northern France. Today, visitors can learn about its history and can access the site by car or boat.
The visitor’s center is a public resource for people who have an interest in Lake Cumberland and this summer they can do it on Saturdays and Sundays.
Resource Manager Brett Call said opening up the visitor’s center on weekends is made possible by volunteers who stepped up to operate the center and interact with visitors.
“Without the volunteers this wouldn’t be possible. It’s great that the public can enjoy the displays here at the Visitor’s Center on the weekends all summer long,” Call said.
Call said his team of park rangers also offers interpretive programs.
“If you have a group of any age that is interested in having a Corps of Engineer Park Ranger educate them about water safety, the environment, or wildlife, while having fun, give us a call,” said Call. “Depending on the size of the group and location, the water safety program can be conducted off site or on site in our visitor’s center.”
For more information about the visitor’s center opening on weekends or interpretive programs offered, call 606-679-6337 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.